Goodness. Has it already been thirty damn years? Well, Final Fantasy wasn’t my first RPG, but it was the second. And while I love Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy had a much bigger impact on my life as a whole. Final Fantasy 2 (4) was the game I was playing when I realized I wanted to write about video games as a career. The stories told, the unforgettable characters, the valuable life lessons hidden behind 16-bit graphics … From Final Fantasy IX’s “You don’t need a reason to help someone”, to spitting in the face of despair, and even in the worst of situations you can count on your friends and allies, like in Final Fantasy VI. The original Final Fantasy had a threadbare story, but even if it wasn’t always clear or sensible, the aspect of traveling back in time to break a time loop and save the world from Chaos, it was a remarkable experience. It would have been far better in those early games if they had better translations and less censorship, but that’s not an issue any longer. And we are going to get a “Final Fantasy 30th Anniversary Collection”, which makes me excited in ways I cannot even express. I’d love for it to come with Cartridges too, in a special edition, but I think that’s just hope.
Though I’ve played every single Final Fantasy title that’s come to America, and some I had to trudge through using translations and other crap while I waited desperately for International Editions to come our way, I do have my favorites for a variety of reasons. Though to be frank, that list shifts and adjusts, depending on what I’m playing. Despite that, there are titles I love more than others, and that opinion’s not always popular depending on what crowd I’m around. But that’s okay! These stories are timeless, and though not many of them share any common ground, it’s still a group of heroes against desperate, dire odds to save the world. These stories have love, excitement, betrayal, sometimes the classes are defined and sometimes not. But what doesn’t change is how they have shaped my childhood and even adulthood. And we’ve had some crazy announcements to celebrate this! From Final Fantasy Wine to Final Fantasy VII Remake, it’s been a fun year of upcoming titles and thematic items. We already have Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age, plenty of Final Fantasy XV DLC as well as Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood. But despite that, what are my personal favorites? Here are my top 5 Final Fantasy titles:
5. Final Fantasy XV: I didn’t expect to love Final Fantasy XV as much as I wound up. That was seriously the most depressing story in any Final Fantasy title that I’ve ever played. I’ll try not to spoil it, but the trials and tribulations of Noctis, the overwhelming loss coupled with the “Stand by Me” track was incredible. The characters were memorable, and the game was gorgeous. Being able to listen to past FF games while exploring was a nice bonus. Even in the era of “Season Passes”, it’s a must-play.
4. Final Fantasy IX: Final Fantasy IX is by all accounts, a tribute to Final Fantasy 1. It’s done in that retro style, using a lot of classic references to the earlier game. There are things I admittedly did not like (Zidane being a cat-person, jump-roping, the stupid, stupid, stupid card game. So… awful.) Despite this, the story was gripping, and the most intriguing part to me was Vivi and the Black Waltzes. Incredible summons, a pretty varied cast of characters kept this one alive with fun interaction and the bright atmosphere hiding something dark and sinister, it was really quite lovely.
3. Final Fantasy VI: Final Fantasy VI … the first RPG I played with multiple parties, the customization of the Esper System (that would later become the Materia System), hidden characters, orchestration such as I’d never heard before, an Opera scene, and … a villain that succeeds! Kefka is one of the only villains in the franchise to set out, have a goal, and do it! Sure, we beat him, but not before he recreates the world in his image using the Light of Judgment. Many times when prompted, VI is at the absolute top of this list. It was the first RPG I played with someone, instead of by myself. It has a lot of positives. It could be its own review!
2. Final Fantasy X: The spiral of death that is Final Fantasy X is marvelous. Tidus wasn’t the best or bravest, and honestly, kind of a chickenshit all things considered. He gets with it eventually, stops crying, and spends the game dealing with his Daddy Issues, and whether he even really exists or not. Probably one of my favorite soundtracks of any game ever, and though it has flaws, like the requirements for getting the Ultimate Weapons (Lulu, Tidus, looking at you!), the Int. Edition and accidentally running into the Dark Aeons and the ludicrous nature of farming for the Sphere Grid.
1. Final Fantasy IV: This is the one. This is the biggest Final Fantasy in my heart. I’ve played every single iteration that’s come out and bought them without reservation or shame. It’s a tale of love, loss. Heartbreak and revenge. Of man’s willingness to do what he’s told, and when to draw the line in the sand. It’s a game about right and wrong, restoring right, standing up no matter what to do what must be done. About retribution, turning from darkness to the light. That even villains can work together for a goal. Kain’s betrayal blew me away the first time, and then the second one hit me even harder because I couldn’t imagine it happening twice. The shifting of the party around, party members dying (even temporarily) was revolutionary. It makes my eyes water just thinking about it.
Every Final Fantasy is good in its own way. Even ones that aren’t Final Fantasy (Final Fantasy Adventure/Mana Series), Weird Sequels (X-2), and Trilogies (XIII). Even if it’s not in my top five (VI, VIII, II) it has positive points and things that are worthy of merit. What about you guys? Have any fond Final Fantasy memories to talk about? Let me know below!